Janet Jackson music video crashing Laptop Hard Disk Drives

Updated: Oct 21

Alright this title is certainly very much click bait, and I'd like to report that it isn't true... however an official CVE Security Exploit ID has been assigned to this report and their is truth behind it.

The bug has now been issued a Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) identifier by MITRE, the US government-backed organization that maintains the CVE system for tracking security bugs. CVE-2022-38392 reports that certain 5400 RPM OEM hard drive, as shipped with laptop PCs in approximately 2005, allows physically proximate attackers to cause a denial of service (device malfunction and system crash) via a resonant-frequency attack with the audio signal from the Janet Jackson's Music Video for Rhythm Nation.

Is this vulnerability going to affect you? Probably not, unless you're running an older computer from the mid 2000 era and still haven't migrated to a Solid State Drive for better performance. So come with me on a little adventure, take a little risk and let's watch a video... because let's be honest how many people are listening to Janet Jackson music these days anyways?

Reported on August 16th 2022:

The story reported to Microsoft detailed how "a major computer manufacturer discovered that playing the music video for Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation would crash certain models of laptops." Further investigation revealed that multiple manufacturers' machines also crashed. Sometimes playing the video on one laptop would crash another nearby laptop. This is mysterious because the song isn't actually that bad. Investigation revealed that all the crashing laptops shared the same 5400 RPM hard disk drive.

"It turns out that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies for the model of 5400 RPM laptop hard drives that they and other manufacturers used," Chen wrote.

The manufacturer that found the problem apparently added a custom filter in the audio pipeline to detect and remove the offending frequencies during audio playback. Few modern machines have hard disk drives, never mind drives that rotate at the unfashionably slow speed of 5400 revolutions per minute.

There seems to be no way to avoid having a resonant frequency. The only thing that can be done is to change it.

The resonant frequency of a glass can shatter it. The resonant frequency of a room can make it uncomfortable to be in. The resonant frequency of a bridge can tear it apart. We even have to take special precautions between 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and processors running at a 2.4GHz clock speed because they are capable of hitting the exact same frequency. As someone pointed out, the difference in manufacturers would have made the resonant frequency slightly differently between the specific drives.

A final note, as stated before this vulnerability likely will not affect you on your personal device. However, if you work at a business using some legacy equipment (Windows XP devices for example) it may be a good idea to skip that Janet Jackson song on your playlist. If you don't, you very well could be arrested for cyber crimes...